The Best Cheesecake in Chicago

Posted on 07 June 2010

Best Cheesecake in Chicago
If our guest blogger, Jennifer Pieszak, ever wanted to chuck her career as an award-winning architectural lighting designer, she could open a beautifully lit bakery and there would be lines around the block for her superb cakes, desserts, muffins, cookies, scones and breads. I am honored she has chosen to share her “signature dessert” recipephany with us. This black and white cheesecake is the best—it’s luscious, gorgeous, easy to make, and punctuated with chocolate.

Here’s what Jennifer wrote:

The Best Cheesecake in Chicago Recipephany

The recipe, as originally transcribed

“When I was growing up in suburbia, Chicago and my grandmother came to represent the exotic and new. She lived on Chicago’s near north side in what is now the very trendy Lincoln Park district, and would always expose us to new cultures and foods when we came to visit.  She subscribed to Chicago Magazine, and when we were there we had to read about the latest new restaurants and things to do.

“When the magazine decided to do a piece on the best cheesecakes in Chicago, the timing was perfect. I had just finished up my first year at MIT, where my friends had agreed that if the stress ever got to be too much for us, we would end it all by eating an entire 11” Baby Watson cheesecake.

“The authors of the story were in the midst of tracking down the best cheesecakes from the finest restaurants. As they were in the final stages of their extensive testing, someone on the staff revealed that although the top six cheesescakes were good, her recipe for black and white cheesecake was even better. So, the recipe was included along with the other wining entries.

“It lived up to its promise. Simple to make, and with delicious results, it soon became my signature dessert. Who could resist the best recipe in Chicago?”

Le Crème de la Crème Cheesecake
From Chicago Magazine, May 1976

A luscious black and white cheesecake

  • 2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 eggs (large)
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 large milk chocolate bar

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Beat cream cheese until smooth, then beat in flavorings and sugar. Beat well, then add eggs, one by one. Place 1/3 of the batter in a small bowl, add the melted chocolate and mix until smooth.

Butter an 8” round, 3” deep pan (Jennifer says: Do not use a springform—I use a porcelain soufflé dish). Place alternating large spoonfuls of white batter and small spoonfuls of chocolate batter into pan, until all has been used.

Bake cheesecake in the bottom third of a preheated 350ºF oven set in a pan filled with hot water. Bake for 90 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cheesecake pan from under pan of  water and cool on a rack until completely cool.

When cheesecake has reached room temperature, invert onto plate. Remove pan and sprinkle bottom with graham cracker crumbs. Then, invert onto serving platter so that cake is right side up. Refrigerate at least 5 or 6 hours.

While cake is chilling, make chocolate curls from chocolate bar. Cover top of cake with curls before serving.

Serves 10-12.

Click on the “recent comments” to the right to read about amazing grandmothers.

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4 responses to The Best Cheesecake in Chicago

  • K8 says:

    Great description of a worldly woman from 2 generations hence. My own Illinois grandmother of Urbana, was an enthusiastic dinner hostess and marvelous cook. She was also an athlete, politician, mother of four, and worked hard for womens’ suffrage. She would have loved this confection, an impossible luxury for a depression-era family, but so affordable now compared with the alternatives.

  • Diane Brody says:

    Dear K8 —
    Very impressive. I’d love to hear more about her — and her recipes! I am in awe of that generation of strong women. I hope this recipe shows that even something like baking a fabulous dessert yourself still really pays off — in terms of quality, cost savings, and personal satisfaction — even for today’s busy professionals.

  • Christine White says:

    Thank you so much for this! I grew up in Chicago and clipped this recipe right after I graduated from Illinois Wesleyan U. I use to make it when I sometimes made cheesecakes for friends’ weddings. I have made many other flavors, but none ever quite matched this. I have been looking all over for my recipe and here it is! I love the picture of the tattered recipe in the notebook. I am making it for my best friend’s 30th wedding anniversary. We went to college together and she is from Lake Forest. Hi, Chicago!

  • Diane Brody says:

    Hi Christine,
    So glad you saw this! Best of luck on making it for the wedding anniversary,
    it is very special.

    I’ll pass this on to Jennifer, too, because she’s the one who gave me the
    recipephany.
    Thanks!
    Diane

  • Leave a Response

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